On this episode of the “VinePair Podcast” — in light of the upcoming Fourth of July holiday — hosts Adam Teeter, Joanna Sciarrino, and Zach Geballe discuss how drinks brands showcase their American roots. From American flag branding and beyond, does leaning into Americana entice consumers to buy these products, or does it push them away?
With the Fourth around the corner, your hosts taste Budweiser, whose can is branded with American symbols and quotes. Tune in to learn more.
Or Check Out the Conversation Here
Adam Teeter: From VinePair’s New York City headquarters, I’m Adam Teeter.
Joanna Sciarrino: And I’m Joanna Sciarrino.
Zach Geballe: In Seattle, Washington, I’m Zach Geballe.
A: And this is the Friday “VinePair Podcast” and a holiday weekend podcast.
J: Yes, Happy Canada Day, everybody.
A: Nobody cares. Honestly, I didn’t even know.
J: Some of you care.
A: Why are all of their holidays so close to ours, just like their cities are close to our border?
Z: What does Canada Day celebrate?
J: Canada Day celebrates the founding of Canada. It’s 155 years old?
A: Why did it happen so close to our Independence Day?
J: I don’t know what.
Z: It’s the only time in the entire calendar when it’s not snowing.
J: It’s precisely one day a year.
A: We’ve thought out, let’s get independent now.
Z: But they’re not. They’re still part of the Commonwealth. Many Canadians I know love to point this out.
A: I know, it’s so interesting.
Z: Yeah. This is not a Canada-themed podcast.
J: They love the queen.
A: Yeah, they love the queen. But speaking of America, this is a holiday weekend when it does seem that people turn to American-themed drinking. It’s what we do on Cinco de Mayo, but America-themed. It’s interesting that a lot of companies really lean in here, right? And they go pretty heavy. So I’m curious from both of you, what do you think are the quintessential American drinks?
J: Definitely Red, White, and Blueberry Lemonade Naturdays.
A: OK. We had that last week.
J: Do people think that?
A: Yeah, they try real hard.
Z: It’s the history.
J: Oh, the history.
Z: No one wants your history, nerd.
A: People are like, “The Founding Fathers drank this.”
J: Nobody cares. We have plenty of articles about it on VinePair.com.
Z: Joanna and I drank Madeira recently. It was fine.
A: I mean, no one likes Madeira, either.
Z: I mean, I do like Madeira, but I don’t want to drink it in summertime.
A: So then, it’s the 4th of July. What are you drinking?
J: Some BrewDogs.
A: That, again, is not American.
J: What did you say, Zach?
Z: I said bourbon.
J: Oh, bourbon. Of course it’s American.
A: That’s American.
J: The most American thing.
A: But do you really think about that when it comes to the 4th of July?
Z: Oh, yeah. I will definitely be drinking some bourbon on the 4th of July.
A: And what do you have? Bourbon and a burger, or are you drinking bourbon straight? On the rocks?
Z: It depends. The great thing about the 4th of July in Seattle is that it could be literally any weather imaginable. It could be 57 degrees and raining or it could be 95 degrees and miserable.
A: Like Canada.
Z: It actually looks like we’re gonna have very nice weather for the Fourth, which is great. It’s not super common, but it’s always nice. I love burgers and I will probably be having one. I’m a big bourbon and rocks kind of guy along with the beer. I’ll be having both? I’ll probably have a beer in one hand.
J: A little tipple of bourbon.
Z: Bourbon in the other hand. And somehow, I’ll also be eating a hot dog.
A: I love a hot dog.
Z: Don’t ask.
A: You’re not a hot dog fan? Not at all?
J: Cheeseburgers for life.
Z: Do you eat sausages, and not hot dogs?
J: No sausage, no hot dogs. I’m not a tube-to- meat, tubed-meat person. Sorry to disappoint everyone.
A: It’s funny. I don’t think I’ve had a hot dog in at least a year.
Z: I’m not going to stand for the cylinder slander.
A: I don’t eat hot dogs at all, ever.
Z: Or any kind of sausage? Or specifically hot dogs?
A: Sausages, either. I don’t not not like them.
Z: There are a lot of negatives in that sentence.
A: If we’re at a barbecue and someone’s like, “Adam, burger or a dog?” It’s a burger all the way. I 100 percent agree with you about the cheeseburger. I would take ribs. I would take brisket. A hot dog is the last thing I eat. You know what I mean? If I got there late and that’s all that’s left, OK, I will accept the hot dog. But I don’t seek out the hot dog.
Z: To clarify, a hot dog can be a lot of different things. Some hot dogs are bad, but sausages? Oh, my God, you guys are missing out.
J: I won’t hate on it for others. I get it. I get the appeal.
Z: The problem with the burger at the grill is, unless you trust the person grilling it, how often is your burger going to just be miserably overcooked?
A: But it doesn’t matter because you’ve had enough beer that it doesn’t matter.
J: Back to drinks.
A: Yeah, back to the drinks podcast.
J: OK. What about a spiked lemonade?
A: So I really enjoy a bourbon lemonade. So I think it takes a little bit of what you’re saying and a little bit of what you know Zach is saying here. There was this cocktail that I used to love. I’m going to bring it all together.
J: I think you’ve spoken about this before.
A: At Back Forty. It was a very Americana restaurant. But first, it had some lemon juice in it, some bourbon, some maple syrup. We brought the Canadians down a little bit. And it was a maple bourbon lemonade and it was delicious. They called it the Back Forty, and you could drink them all day long. So I like those a lot. My brother-in-law has fully decided that he just drinks seltzers now. I mean all the time, but also on the Fourth. Which is interesting because I’m not one of those people that’s been like, “You know what? Now I embrace the seltzer, so I’ll drink it on the Fourth.” Not at all. I do like beer on the 4th of July, especially if we’re at the beach. That seems to be a really nice thing.
J: What kind of beer? A light lager?
A: An American beer. When it’s the 4th of July, I’m not I’m not mad at drinking some Miller Lite or something. I don’t need you to go get me hazy IPAs, it’s not what I want. Or a crisp pilsner is what I’m looking for. You want to beat the heat, you want to hang out with your friends, you want it to be sessionable. You’re not trying to get really intoxicated. You’re trying to just get to a level and stay there and have a good time and then go home, not driving. You want to have a designated driver.
J: Take the subway.
A: Take the subway. It’s interesting that so many brands really do lean into this holiday and cover their packaging in American flags, Americana imagery, etc., specifically for this one weekend. I know that it bleeds out, but there’s so much alcohol purchased on this one weekend that a lot of that stock is gone the second that it goes out to market. But I’m curious, because there’s been this debate recently as to whether or not that sort of imagery is as effective as it used to be. Are there certain groups of the country now that actively won’t buy those products because they think it might make them look like they participated in a Jan. 6 rally? I don’t know. There is sort of that talk at this point in time. Do you guys think that that imagery is more of a negative now than it used to be, just given our current climate?
Z: I certainly think it’s fair to say that it’s maybe a little more fraught than it was at various points. I remember reading something, years and years ago, about how patriotism as a concept has had very different meanings in America over even just in the last 50 years. At different times, describing yourself as very patriotic has just meant different things. It should come as no surprise to any of our listeners that we live in relatively politically polarized times. And because of that, anything that is evocative of a certain, let’s say traditional image of America, is going to be controversial. It might entice some people and turn other people away. And I don’t know the extent to which some of these brands have gone and really calculated the analysis. OK, we think that in our core demographic, this imagery is more positively associated than negatively. I mean, I imagine they have to think about that kind of stuff, at least to some extent. Email us if you do this at email@example.com. We’d love to know. But I would say that for me, I think where we’re at, where I’m personally at, is at a place where I don’t really care. It’s like people choosing to wear red, white, and blue on the 4th of July or American flag swim trunks or whatever. It’s costuming, right? It’s a kind of costuming that’s still acceptable in a way that, frankly, wearing a sombrero on Cinco de Mayo no longer really is in a lot of places. It’s like if you want to get dressed up like Santa around Christmas, you can do that and go out and drink. Please don’t participate in SantaCon, but you can do it in other ways. For a certain kind of person, it’s a thing that they can do. They want to have a thing that feels fun and that feels festive. The can or the bottle is a part of that in the same way that their clothing choice is. For me personally, I don’t need an American flag-draped can to feel like I’m celebrating a holiday, but I’m not going to not drink the beer because it’s so clad.
J: Right. I personally don’t take it as a festive holiday. It’s just kind of a holiday and we have off from work.
Z: Well, I don’t know what they do in Canada, but here in America, we get off of work.
A: In Canada they just ride moose.
J: But we set off fireworks for other holidays as well.
A: What other holidays?
J: I don’t know, New Year’s Eve.
A: This is the holiday season for freezing our asses off in Times Square watching fireworks get set off.
J: I know it is meant to be, but I don’t take it as a celebration of America. Just me? OK.
Z: Joanna doesn’t have to go to the office.
A: I mean, I definitely take it as a celebration of America.
J: Are you decked out in Americana, too? Will you buy an American flag can?
A: If it happens to be the branding on the drink that I’d like to buy, then fine. But I don’t seek it out. I’m not going to only buy things that have the imagery on them. We get down with some sparklers and some fireworks and it feels like a fun, festive holiday. For me, though, the 4th of July is so interesting because it’s always been a celebration of summer.
A: That’s how I really think of it. Memorial Day is kind of the beginning of summer. And you never, especially as we talked about before, depending where you live in the country if it’s going to be a great weekend or not. And then Labor Day is always the end. It’s like, “Oh f*ck, it’s over.” The 4th of July is so great because it is a celebration of this season that is so awesome with being able to be outside, to go swimming, to go to the beach, all the amazing produce. That, to me, is just a celebration of this time.
J: You’re riding high off your birthday.
A: Oh, yeah. Way high.
J: It’s just the best.
Z: It’s a celebration with tubular meats. It’s all good.
A: It’s also a celebration of my relationship because we got married on July 3. So, again, if you want to send some anniversary gifts, y’all know the address. It’s 244 Fifth Avenue.
J: Did you have a big American wedding?
A: So Naomi’s grandmother, who is no longer with us but was really an amazing person, said we actually had a big Italian wedding. Because what we did was, we got married on the third, but then on the Fourth, we had this huge picnic with just our friends and we held it at Naomi’s house. She’s like, “Only the Italians have weddings that last this long.” And I was like, “Thank you. This was really fun.” It was this amazing celebration of summer, and we had all this incredible fruit and produce from the farms; she’s from Lancaster. It was awesome. So for me, it’s always been about playing the classic outdoor drinking games like bocce and pétanque — the two games with the ball in the little thing. Or whatever people call it here, cornhole. Or is there another name for cornhole?
Z: Something with the bags, I forget what it is.
A: Something bags.
J: Can jam.
A: What’s the one that has two balls on the end of a string and you throw it? You play that game. It’s the games you only play once a year, so you don’t remember the names of them. That’s what’s awesome about the Fourth. It’s hopefully good weather and you’re just outside all day playing games, hanging out and drinking and barbecuing. It’s a celebration of summer. And so for me, I don’t really think that it has to be a drink that has American imagery on it. But there are drinks that feel weirdly American, if that makes sense. I do agree, Zach, that if someone is making a bourbon cocktail, I’m much more likely to drink that than something with aquavit. Definitely not looking for that Canadian ice wine at all. And I think it’s a fun excuse to do that, too. What’s so great about American drinking culture and because we’re such a young drinking culture still, thanks to Prohibition, is that we can sort of get in on these themes and really embrace them in a way that I actually think is really celebratory. And I believe it’s actually respectful in a lot of ways because we’re just so excited about them, right? During Cinco de Mayo, we get excited about exploring different tequilas and different beers from Mexico, etc.. During St. Patrick’s Day, it is about the Irish whiskeys and the really cool beers that come from Ireland. And I think that what’s great about the 4th of July is it sort of celebrates the melting pot, too. The thing that we’re about to drink is an American beer, but created by immigrants from Germany. I think that’s what’s super cool about the Fourth. You can also bring in your own culture. That’s why, for me, it’s great to have barbecue. But I know there’s a lot of people on the Fourth that love having tacos and whatever is regional for them that really means summer and drinking and eating outdoors. And so that’s what I like.
Z: Let’s drink.
A: So what we do have is the Budweiser America can.
Z: Hell, yeah.
A: More than anything, this is the brand that says the 4th of July all year long. If you look at the can, for those of you that forget about it, literally right above the name Budweiser King of Beers, it says “The Great American Lager.” So they want you to know. And then under the King of Beers, it says, “Brewed and canned in the USA.” Budweiser has always been an unapologetically American brand. That’s how it went out to the rest of the world. But again, German immigrants moved to Saint Louis, Mo., and created this beer. It’s been forever since I had this.
J: This immediately brought me back to a frat house, just opening it.
Z: I thought about this when you were talking about this, I don’t know if it ever quite struck me in this direct way. We can say whatever we want to say about America. Catch me off air. I got things to say. But it’s also emblematic of why America is so evocative and has been. And some of the ideals are so powerful. This is a beer that could not have been made in Germany. It does not conform to the German purity laws. It has rice in it, and yet here it is, this incredibly iconic beer that now, I guess, could be made anywhere. But the Anheuser-Busch family had to come here to make it.
A: It does take me back to college, but also it tastes so much like Budweiser. I can’t explain it. It does taste like a Budweiser.
J: Yeah, it doesn’t taste like anything else. When was the last time you had a Bud Heavy?
A: It’s been a while.
Z: I had one early in the pandemic. So a couple of years.
A: I used to love Budweiser. So when I was right out of college, I used to love getting two slices of pizza and then a Budweiser out of the glass bottle every once in a while. It felt cool to get this Budweiser out of the glass bottle, these two slices of pizza from this pizzeria that I could walk to. And it felt very New York, oddly, to me. So I have that memory, too. It’s been a long time since I’ve had that. And I will say, especially in the years following, when I would be at parties, if it was in the cooler, I would probably grab something else. I was that same kind of craft beer snob. And I think there are still a lot of moments when Budweiser is just a great drink, and again, I think it feels very much like the American beverage. I challenge anyone to tell me a brand of alcohol that is more American than this.
Z: I mean, your only argument might be something like Jack Daniel’s. But that’s slightly different.
A: Right. I guess my counter to that if you made that argument, which I could see that you could make, is that Jack does not lean in as heavily to America as this brand does. I mean, it’s literally everywhere on the beer.
J: Everywhere. Unabashedly American.
A: The seal says “The United States of America.” It’s everywhere. Which is why I also don’t have a problem with the Budweiser American flag cans, because it literally is just the brand taking it to 11, and the brand is already at 10. It doesn’t feel pandering.
J: Very true to itself.
A: Very true to itself. Yeah.
Z: I was wondering something about this, since we’re talking about the way it tastes. I think there was a point in time, like your craft beer snob time for me, Adam, where it’s like, “Oh, gosh. an adjunct lager. Ew, rice.” I think there are reasons to have feelings about that. And some brewers have very strong feelings about it. I have actually tasted a lot of cold IPAs. I wrote a piece for the site about that a few months ago and talked about how those used rice as a way to kind of get at something that is a little bit evocative of this very specific flavor profile. And the idea is, for all the things you can criticize about this kind of beer and about adjunct lagers, there is a sweetness and a smoothness to them that’s just undeniably pleasurable. I don’t know if that’s the only thing I’d ever want to drink, for sure. It’s not. But there are times, and I think the Fourth is absolutely one of those, where this is a beer that you can enjoy without having to think too much about it. It delivers real pleasure. And that’s a thing that not every beer or not every light lager can deliver, not every trimmed-to-within-an-inch-of-its-life, low-cal beer can deliver. Bud Heavy is tasty, and that’s cool.
A: Yeah. It does remind me of a frat party, though. I’d love to hear what your quintessential American drinks are. Hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a wonderful Fourth of July weekend. Happy Canada Day to those who celebrate.
J: Be safe.
A: Please be safe out there. Please, please, please call a designated driver. And with that, I’ll talk to you guys next week. But not Monday, because we’ll be off for the Fourth.
J: Talk to you then.
Z: Sounds great.
Thanks so much for listening to the “VinePair Podcast.” If you love this show as much as we love making it, please leave us a rating or review on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or wherever it is you get your podcasts. It really helps everyone else discover the show.
Now for the credits. VinePair is produced and recorded in New York City and Seattle, Washington, by myself and Zach Geballe, who does all the editing and loves to get the credit. Also, I would love to give a special shout-out to my VinePair co-founder, Josh Malin, for helping make all of this possible, and also to Keith Beavers, VinePair’s tastings director, who is additionally a producer on the show. I also want to, of course, thank every other member of the VinePair team, who are instrumental in all of the ideas that go into making the show every week. Thanks so much for listening, and we’ll see you again.
Ed. note: This episode has been edited for length and clarity.